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Jerry Falwell, Sr.: "We are developing a socialistic state in these United States... our giveaway programs, our welfarism, at home and abroad, is developing a breed of bums and derelicts who wouldn't work in a pie shop eating the holes out of donuts...
And they will stand in line at an unemployment office rather than go look for a job."

Falwell said that back in 1976. But as recently as today, the Culture Warriors on Christian Twitter have been recycling some of these same toxic ideas.
So here's a thread on choices and circumstances for the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps crowd--those people who insist on reducing all outcomes to personal responsibility:
Generally speaking, we control our choices but we do not control our circumstances (except insofar as our circumstances are a product of our choices).
Circumstances that we can't control include facts about our parents: who they are, their income and employment status, level of education, social networks, or the amount of wealth that they are able to leverage on our behalf.
On a broader scale, we hold no sway over the prevailing economic moment that spans the course of our lives--whether we live through a prolonged period of economic recession, the availability of affordable housing, or technological innovation and its impact on the labor market.
And we have no power over which natural capacities we possess at birth, or the wage that a given set of abilities can command.

Consider the ability to glide across a frozen sheet of water on sharpened pieces of metal, while hitting a small rubber disk with a bent wooden stick.
In the current economic moment, some who possess this concatenation of talents can earn a fortune in the @NHL .
A mere two centuries ago, this skillset wouldn't have fetched a modest living. Had @WayneGretzky been born in 1861 instead of the 1961, he'd have been in his mid-50s when the NHL was founded (in 1917).
Alternatively, had Gretsky been born in 1960s Patagonia instead of 1960s Canada, it's possible that he'd never have owned a pair of ice skates, let alone mastered the game of hockey.
Moreover, Gretsky spent the most lucrative years of his career playing for the @LAKings . So he earned much of his fortune on an ice rink in the middle of Southern California, where the average temperature hovers around 70°F during the coldest part of hockey season.
Thus the monetary value of Gretsky's talent was contingent not only on the timing and location of his birth, but also on a background of technical advances that made it feasible to preserve an elaborate block of ice in a subtropical venue.
The transience of Gretsky's immense earning potential demonstrates that the value of a given skillset is highly sensitive to context: talent generates income only in cooperation with a favorable environment.
We might call this type of convergence between talent and environment 'income-talent'. Hence, one possesses income-talent if and insofar as one's natural abilities are commercially valuable at the time and place that one lives.
Since individuals choose neither their endowment of natural abilities, nor the timing and location of their birth, income-talent is a feature of our circumstances that we do not control.
We blame ourselves for having made poor choices when we reflect on some course of action and admit that we should have acted differently. In some cases, this kind of reflection prompts an effort to reform our character or amend our life goals.
By contrast, when we reflect on circumstances over which we never exercised any control, we do not believe that we should have chosen differently. We may regret that our circumstances weren't more conducive to our flourishing in some respect.
And we might even grieve the loss of some unrealized ambition foreclosed by circumstance. But we do not reflect on the date of our birth or the quality of the school district where our childhood home was located and wish that we had chosen differently.
So it makes no sense to claim that income or social standing are merely a product of an individual's choices, for which he or she is solely responsible.
And it's wrong to advocate for public policies that are premised on that fiction, like reducing public assistance or tying healthcare to a certain kind of employment.
Notice that we haven't even mentioned anything about the contribution of systemic injustice to the adverse circumstances of many who stand to be harmed by such policies (see below).
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